Saturday, December 19, 2020

From Ian:

Problem-solver Jared Kushner’s biggest win was Middle East peace
Of all the problems President Trump threw at senior adviser Jared Kushner, developing a peace plan for the Middle East was the toughest, a win that has eluded administrations for years.

For the Jewish adviser, bringing peace to Israel was personal. And any victory would provide the administration with an everlasting legacy in the region and the world.

He ignored the ridicule of former administration officials when he took a different and secretive path, as he had on several other projects.

“If you look up the definition of an impossible objective in the dictionary, people say Middle East peace. It's almost a metaphor for impossibility,” he told Secrets.

Kushner built a plan that had a big economic and prosperity push, and while many in Washington brushed it off, it has taken root in the region.

And it set the stage for the Abraham Accords, which has led four former foes ⁠— the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan, and Morocco ⁠— to sign peace agreements with Israel.

“We took a very different approach, and this isn't a rebuke of Democrats, it's a rebuke of maybe more of the foreign policy people who've come before because they're Republicans and Democrats, and for years, they did this dance and didn't get results. Then, those were the people who criticized me the loudest for doing things differently than the way they did. I was like, 'Wait, so you want me to accomplish a different result than you got, but you want me to do the exact same way that you tried?'” he said.

Joel Rosenberg, a bestselling author, editor of All Israel News and All Arab News, and a roving diplomat, called Kushner one of “the most innovative and successful Middle East peace brokers in history.”
FDD: Occupied Territories Bill in Ireland Is Dead on Arrival
Amid a COVID-19-induced economic recession, Irish independent Senator Frances Black has revived a draft law targeting Israel after a previous failed attempt. The Occupied Territories Bill, if enacted, could have disastrous consequences for U.S. economic relations with Ireland – and Ireland itself.

The Occupied Territories Bill seeks to criminalize trade in goods and services produced in Israeli settlements. When the bill was initially introduced in January 2018, it triggered a sharp denouncement from the Irish government and U.S. policymakers.

During the 32nd session of the Irish parliament, which was dissolved in January 2020, the bill reached the seventh of 10 steps toward becoming law. Unpassed bills typically lapse at the end of Ireland’s parliamentary session and must begin the process anew in the subsequent session. However, Black succeeded in now having the bill reinstated at the same stage during the 33rd session.

If enacted, the bill could force U.S. companies with an Irish division or subsidiary to choose between one of two costly options: violate Irish law by continuing to do business with companies and persons in Israeli settlements, or violate U.S. law by participating in a foreign boycott not endorsed by the U.S. government. Major U.S. companies, including Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Facebook, employ over 155,000 people in Ireland. All four of these corporations have substantial research and development centers in Israel. Not only would these and other U.S. companies risk running afoul of U.S. federal law prohibiting compliance with an unsanctioned boycott, they would also be violating nearly two dozen U.S. state laws that prohibit unauthorized boycotts against Israel.

The bill has already received sharp criticism from officials of Ireland’s two leading political parties, as well as bipartisan criticism from the U.S. Congress. Earlier this year, Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin of Ireland’s Fianna Fail party asserted that the bill would violate EU trade regulations by undermining the European Union’s exclusive right to determine trade policy for its member states.

Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney of the Fine Gael party has made similar assertions. In addition, Irish Attorney General Séamus Woulfe weighed in that the bill would be “impractical” to enforce.
Obama trafficked in anti-Semitic tropes — lefty media didn't notice
The words leap out and grab you. Former President Barack Obama characterizes no other world leader in anything like the terms he reserves for former French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

In his recent memoir, Obama tells us that Sarkozy is a “quarter Greek Jew.” Little wonder, then, that Sarkozy has “dark, expressive, Mediterranean features,” which resemble the exaggerated, often distorted figures “of a Toulouse-Lautrec painting.”

Little wonder, too, that he is “all emotional outbursts and overblown rhetoric,” while his conversation, which reflects unbridled ambition and incessant pushiness, “swoops from flattery to bluster to genuine insight.”

One might have thought Obama was deliberately directing at Sarkozy the insults notoriously hurled at Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881), the first person of Jewish birth to become Britain’s prime minister. The colonial administrator Lord Cromer said of Disraeli that he was driven by “a tenacity of purpose” that was “a Jewish characteristic.” With his swarthy, “Oriental features,” Disraeli was consumed by an “addiction” to the “passionate outbursts” and “excesses of flattery” that were the hallmarks of his “nimble-witted” race.

Cromer’s taunts, which Obama so uncannily echoes, were hardly unusual. On the contrary, the traits Obama attributes to Sarkozy — from oily complexion to pushy, self-centered assertiveness — were at the heart of the anti-Semitic caricature of the Jew that crystallized, with murderous consequences, in the 19th century.

That history makes calling Sarkozy a Jew vastly different from noting, say, that Angela Merkel’s father was a Lutheran pastor; and if anti-Semitism involves using the label “Jew” to evoke, emphasize or explain an interrelated complex of unattractive attributes, Obama’s description of Sarkozy is unquestionably anti-Semitic.

Yet from The New York Times to The Washington Post and beyond, not one of the gushing reviews considered Obama’s statement even worth mentioning.

Rabbis Denounce Raphael Warnock for 'Antisemitic Rhetoric'
The Coalition for Jewish Values, a group of traditional rabbis, accused Georgia Democratic Senate candidate Rev. Raphael Warnock of “antisemitic rhetoric” on Friday.

The group, which represents “over 1500 traditional rabbis in matters of public policy,” also accused liberal Jews from the Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA) of trying to “whitewash” Warnock’s views by circulating a petition claiming that he was the victim of “baseless claims and attacks.”

In a letter to the JDCA, whose signatories included two rabbis from Georgia, the Coalition addressed a recent JDCA meeting at which Warnock had been given an opportunity to explain his views to the Jewish community.

The traditional rabbis said that they were “concerned and hurt by the manner in which the Reverend brushed aside his past rhetoric against Israel and the Jewish community, and even blamed his opponents for ‘trying to use Israel as yet another wedge issue.'”

While the rabbis welcomed Warnock’s statement that he does not consider Israel an “apartheid state,” they pointed out that he had signed a letter making that accusation just last year.

In addition, the rabbis expressed concern about Warnock’s rhetoric in sermons at the Ebenezer Baptist Church. In one sermon from 2018, for example, Warnock said that Israel was shooting “unarmed” Palestinians like “birds of prey.” The rabbis said that Warnock’s attempt to brush of the criticism was unacceptable:
Khaled Abu Toameh: PA, Jordan and Egypt call for resumption of peace talks
The Palestinian Authority, Egypt and Jordan on Saturday stressed the need to urge Israel to return to negotiations in order to reach a final settlement on the basis of a two-state solution to ensure the establishment of an independent, sovereign Palestinian state along the pre-1967 lines, with east Jerusalem as its capital.

PA Foreign Minister Riyad Malki, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said in a joint statement after meeting in Cairo that they had agreed to continue working towards launching “effective and serious negotiations [with Israel] to end the stalemate in the peace process and create a real political horizon for progress towards a just peace.”

The three ministers said that international resolutions, including United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334, as well as the Arab Peace Initiative, should serve as a basis for the resumption of talks.

Adopted by the Security Council in December 2016, Resolution 2334 expresses “grave concern that continuing Israeli settlement activities are dangerously imperiling the viability of the two-state solution based on the 1967 lines.”

The Arab Peace Initiative, endorsed by the Arab League in 2002, offers normalization of relations by the Arab countries with Israel, in return for a full withdrawal by Israel from the Golan Heights, West Bank and Gaza Strip and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital.
Progressives Push Biden to Tap Foreign Policy Experts With Deep Koch, Soros Ties
A host of progressive foreign policy groups has delivered 100 résumés to the Biden transition team in a move intended to pressure the incoming administration to include voices outside the mainstream of American foreign policy.

The list, obtained by the Washington Free Beacon, includes a dozen scholars from the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, the think tank bankrolled by Charles Koch and George Soros.

It also includes a onetime Human Rights Watch and Quincy Institute official, Sarah Leah Whitson, who solicited donations from Saudi Arabia by promising to attack pro-Israel groups. Whitson left the Quincy Institute shortly after amplifying an anti-Semitic tweet celebrating Israeli suffering from the coronavirus and lamenting that it was "missing a tablespoon of blood." (Whitson later deleted the tweet, arguing that her point "didn’t come out right.")

The existence of the list was first reported by Politico, which opted not to publish the document. It can be found below. An organizer of the list, Alexander McCoy, political director at Common Defense, said the list reflected "old research materials" and did not match the names submitted to the Biden team, but declined to elaborate on any alleged discrepancies between the two documents.

The list serves as a counter to the predominantly center-left foreign policy officials Biden has tapped thus far—including Antony Blinken for secretary of state and Jake Sullivan for national security adviser—and as a suggested roadmap from the Bernie Sanders-wing of the Democratic party to rectify their exclusion from the nascent administration.

Experts who have offered praise for Biden's early picks were critical of the progressive list.
Progressive Groups Push Biden to Tap Accused Iranian Lobbyist for Top National-Security Role
Among the most notable selections by this coalition—which includes the Progressive Change Institute, Common Defense, the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, and the National Iranian American Council (NIAC)—is Trita Parsi, whom the list endorsed to oversee Middle East affairs on the White House National Security Council.

Parsi, NIAC's cofounder, now serves as vice president of the Quincy Institute, an isolationist think tank bankrolled by billionaires George Soros and Charles Koch. Parsi has been one of the most visible champions of diplomacy with Iran and played a critical role in promoting the Obama administration's 2015 nuclear deal. His potential selection for a top national-security post in the Biden administration has raised eyebrows among regional experts and former U.S. officials, who told the Free Beacon that it is unlikely Parsi, who was as of 2013 identified as a dual Iranian-Swedish citizen, could hold a job that requires top-secret security clearance.

Parsi is a U.S. green-card holder as of 2013, according to multiple online biographies. Only U.S. citizens are eligible to obtain a security clearance.

"I find it highly unlikely that the CIA would be able to approve of a security clearance for him given his many connections to designated terrorists and the Iranian regime," said one former National Security Council official.

Michael Rubin, a former Pentagon official and resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, said, "It would be very difficult for Parsi to get a security clearance. There's a huge difference between what a credulous and sympathetic press is willing to ignore in order to advance a political agenda versus what U.S. law enforcement will accept."

Parsi's Iran advocacy with NIAC has sparked accusations that he and the organization were clandestinely lobbying on behalf of the Iranian regime—claims that were given credence by a U.S. court. NIAC was ordered to pay more than $180,000 in 2013 to the legal defense fund of an Iranian-American writer following a defamation lawsuit that claimed NIAC was acting as an unregistered lobby shop for Iran. The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia said Parsi's work was "not inconsistent with the idea that he was first and foremost an advocate for the regime."

Congressional leaders have also probed NIAC's activities, alleging violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act, which requires those who lobby for foreign nations to disclose their work.

Just three days left until automatic elections called
With just three days left until the Knesset is automatically dissolved, setting in motion a fourth round of premature elections, the obstacles which must be overcome for the fractious coalition to stabilize the current government look insurmountable.

If elections are to be prevented, a budget would have to be passed by midnight on Tuesday, December 22 and although it is virtually impossible to do so at this late stage, Likud and Blue and White could pass legislation to delay the budget deadline, again, if agreement was reached on the other major bone of contention, control over judicial and legal appointments.

But even that legislation would require a majority which would be extremely hard to secure in the current Knesset.

At the same time, the Likud is demanding greater authority in the appointment of critical positions in the legal and judicial systems, including a new state attorney, a new attorney-general, and judges.

Blue and White took control of the Justice Ministry precisely to block the Likud and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s influence over such sensitive appointments as the prime minister is in the midst of a criminal trial.

Blue and White is apparently balking at these demands, which would weaken Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn, according to a report on Channel 12.
Netanyahu, Edelstein kick off Israel's COVID-19 vaccination campaign
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Health Minister Yuli Edelstein received the first doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine in Israel at an event that was live-streamed across Israel as part of the campaign to encourage the public to get the jab.

“It's a small shot for a person and a huge step toward the health of us all," the prime minister said.

The leaders were inoculated at Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer by the prime minister’s doctor, Dr. Zvi Herman Berkowitz. Netanyahu was jabbed in the right arm. Edelstein was shot in the left arm.

"This is a very big day for the State of Israel," Netanyahu said before receiving the vaccine. "We have been experiencing for almost a year the worst pandemic that humanity has known in the last 100 years and this is the beginning of the exit. We have brought millions of vaccines to our little State of Israel and everyone needs to be vaccinated. I asked to be vaccinated first with [Health] Minister [Yuli] Edelstein to set a personal example.

“I think if we do this together, we will beat the corona and sooner than people expect,” he later added.

Hamas bans Muslims from attending Christmas celebrations in Gaza
Hamas has decided to “limit interaction” with Christmas celebrations in the Gaza Strip, drawing sharp criticism from many Palestinians, especially Christians living in the Gaza Strip.

The restriction, which is not connected to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, was included in an internal document issued on December 15 by Dr. Walid Owaidah, Director-General of the General Authority of Preaching and Guidance in the Hamas-controlled Ministry of Wakf and Religious Affairs.

The document, addressed to Dr. Abdel Hadi al-Agha, Deputy Minister of the Wakf and Religious Affairs, is titled: “The Activities of the General Authority of Preaching and Guidance to Limit Interaction with Christmas.”

Hamas defended the decision and claimed that it applies only to Muslims who attend non-Muslim celebrations.

The document recommends a series of measures to “limit interaction” with Christmas celebrations in the Gaza Strip. The measures include, among other things, issuing a fatwa (Islamic ruling) and waging an online campaign about the need to impose restrictions on the celebrations. In addition, the document recommends that Muslim preachers and media outlets participate in the campaign.

The number of Christians in the Gaza Strip has significantly dropped in the past decade. In 2009, there was an estimated 3,000 Christians in the Gaza Strip. Today, there are less than 1,000 still living in the Hamas-controlled coastal enclave.

Beirut synagogue renovated after port blast, but no Jews likely to pray there
Beirut’s Maghen Abraham Synagogue has been renovated after being damaged by the catastrophic port blast this summer in the Lebanese capital, but the few Jews said to remain in the country are reportedly too scared to pray in it.

The renovations were paid for by Jewish donors overseas and the development firm Solidere, founded by the late Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri, according to a Lebanese television report that was also shown on Israel’s Channel 12 news Wednesday.

According to Nagi Georges Zeidan, an expert on Lebanon’s tiny Jewish community, there are only 29 Jews left in the country. The TV report said there is no communal life and prayers aren’t held at the synagogue on Shabbat. The community had numbered in the low hundreds in the 1970s, and has since dwindled to just a few dozen at most.

“Since they kidnapped nine Jews in 1985, executed them and their burial place isn’t known, every Jew in Lebanon began to fear for their fate. That’s the truth,” Zeidan told Lebanese TV.

The synagogue appeared to only sustain minor damage in the August explosion at the Beirut port, which killed over 200 and wounded thousands, while leaving large parts of the city devastated.
Iran Can’t Get Its Story Straight on Assassination of Top Nuclear Scientist
Apparently, the IRGC deputy commander Ali Fadavi ignored the state media interview with Fakhrizadeh’s son, going a step further than previous narratives to claim that a remote-controlled machine gun utilizing artificial intelligence and facial recognition assassinated Fakhrizadeh, while leaving his wife—who was only “25 centimeters away”—unharmed.

Mohsen Rezai, former IRGC chief commander and current Expediency Council secretary, went even further, claiming that the perpetrators used an “intelligent” satellite-guided weapon equipped with a laser and silencer. He pointed to a report by the armed forces general staff chief that the weapon in question belonged to NATO.

There have also been conflicting reports about whether the vehicle was bullet-proof. Images clearly show it was not.

The narratives of killer robots, worthy of a Michael Bay movie, betray a likelier truth: a small team of highly trained, professional assassins was sent by an adversary’s professional intelligence service that thoroughly penetrated the Islamic Republic’s top echelon and recruited high-level moles right under its nose.

Amid all these contradictory accounts, Iranian officials have scrambled to explain the latest massive security breach. Supreme National Security Council Secretary Ali Shamkhani said that intelligence services knew about the potential plot, including the time and place, but that the warnings were not taken as seriously as they should have because “the enemy” had tried to kill Fakhrizadeh for two decades. He also repeated the claim that a remote-controlled machine gun was used, adding that it was guided via satellite.

A spokesman for the administration of President Hassan Rouhani said that the Intelligence Ministry, which nominally falls under the cabinet but also answers to the Office of the Supreme Leader, had warned Fakhrizadeh’s security detail, indirectly referencing the IRGC, about the plot several days before the attack. (The IRGC’s Ansar ol-Mahdi Protection Corps has been in charge of providing security to nuclear scientists, according to the unit’s then-commander Brigadier General Ali Nasiri in 2018, who once boasted that the assassinations of scientists stopped when the unit took charge.) The Intelligence Ministry, which has recently received a blessing to increase its staff by 50 percent, is trying to distance itself from the security failure and blame the Guard Corps.
Iran’s regime destroyed grave of executed champion wrestler
The Islamic Republic of Iran continued its violent repression of the executed champion wrestler Navid Afkari, desecrating his grave on Thursday after his brother and father were arrested during a visit to the cemetery.

Afkari’s sister Elham posted a photograph of Navid’s ravaged grave, writing on Instagram: “You can threaten, destroy, or arrest, what are you going to do with Navid’s name and memory in people’s hearts?”

Iran’s regime, according to Western governments and human rights organizations, imposed an extrajudicial hanging on Afkari in September for his role in protesting regime corruption in 2018.

The regime sentenced him to death for an “act of war against God” for his participation in demonstrations against miserable economic conditions in Iran.

The clerical regime of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei claimed without evidence Afkari killed a security officer who monitored the protests.

The Jerusalem Post reported on Thursday that Navid’s father Hossein Afkari and his brother Hamid were cleaning the area around the wrestler’s grave when they were arrested. They were released later in the day.

The destruction of Afkari’s grave electrified social media with a new wave of outrage directed at Tehran’s clerical rulers. “After executing innocent #NavidAfkari, a champion wrestler, and imprisoning his 2 brothers, Islamic Republic of Iran has now desecrated Navid’s grave. He’s not even allowed to rest in peace. How much more should this poor family suffer? The world, hear this family,” tweeted Masih
BBC News ignores Israel’s latest new diplomatic ties
The Jerusalem Post noted that:
“The landlocked country [Bhutan] has formal diplomatic relations with only 53 other countries – a list that does not include the US, UK, France or Russia – and has embassies in only seven of them.

Neither does the country have ties with China, having closed its border to the country on its north after China’s 1959 invasion of Tibet.”

Visitors to the BBC News website will find no coverage whatsoever of that story to date, including on its Israel and Bhutan pages. Apparently a story about new diplomatic relations which cannot be framed in terms of ‘the conflict’, the US president or Palestinian reactions is not newsworthy as far as the BBC is concerned.
Revisiting the BBC’s amplification of Syrian and Russian propaganda
The topic of the conspiracy theories surrounding the ‘White Helmets’ is addressed inter alia in episode 4 of the series with particular focus on Vanessa Beeley and Eva Bartlett, including references (lacking context in places) to their earlier anti-Israel activism.

Over two and a half years before this Radio 4 series was aired (in April 2018) BBC Trending had published an article about Beeley and others titled “Syria war: The online activists pushing conspiracy theories”.

“The activists call themselves “anti-war”, but as they generally back the Syrian government’s military operations against rebel forces seeking to overthrow Mr Assad and Russian air strikes carried out in support, it might be more accurate to describe them as “anti-Western intervention” or “pro-Syrian government”.

According to their narrative, international media organisations across the political spectrum, along with human rights organisations, are somehow covertly aligned with Western governments, Saudi Arabia, the Islamic State group and al-Qaeda and taking part in a secretive plot to take over Syria.”

The BBC’s understanding of the fact that the propaganda war run by Russia and the Syrian regime and supported by Western conspiracy theorists included disinformation concerning the ‘White Helmets’ did not however prevent it from continuing to repeatedly amplify those claims.
Historian: Polish society shunned Jewish survivors returning from death camps
When the slim percentage of Polish Jewry that survived the Holocaust returned home from the ghettos and death camps, they were not readily accepted back into the folds of Polish society.

“They were physically present but socially absent,” Polish historian Lukasz Krzyzanowski tells The Times of Israel via Zoom call from his book-lined study in Warsaw. “Polish Jews after the war felt alone and socially isolated because there was no compassion or empathy forthcoming from their [non-Jewish] Polish compatriots.”

In his book, “Ghost Citizens: Jewish Return to a Postwar City,” Krzyzanowski examines this phenomenon by focusing on the mid-sized industrial city of Radom, located in the center-east of Poland, between the years 1945 and 1950.

“After the war there was a complete change to the social fabric of Radom,” says Krzyzanowski, who is an assistant professor at the Polish Academy of Sciences. “Not only with the disappearance of the Jews, because most of them were murdered, but those Jews who survived and returned were absent in a social sensibility.”

They were not seen as citizens by most of their compatriots after they returned from the war

“These Jews were citizens, but they were not seen as citizens by most of their compatriots after they returned from the war,” Krzyzanowski says.

The historian is reluctant to get into a detailed discussion about Holocaust memory politics in contemporary Poland. But he does claim that most Poles today are “unwilling to accept the bitter fact that they live in a post-genocidal land.”
USSR engineer made space flight possible despite facing virulent anti-Semitism
Jewish-Soviet engineer Anatoliy Davidovich Daron might not have a name as recognizable as Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin or rocket engineer Sergei Korolev, but without the engine Danon designed, a Soviet rocket would not have sent that first man into space in 1961 — nor the first satellite, Sputnik, into orbit in 1957.

Danon, who died on June 24 of heart failure at the age of 94, was the lead designer of the engine that sent the first satellite into space.

“He was an engineer, a scientist, a designer who found an incredibly creative solution to a very difficult problem,” says Asif Siddiqi, a professor at Fordham University in New York who specializes in the history of the Soviet space program. “He is one of the unwritten figures in the history of space.”

Daron’s death was announced by Russia’s largest news agency TASS as well as by the Russian space agency, Roscosmos. However, not much was written in English — despite the fact that he died in the United States — aside from an obituary on the website of a Jewish funeral home in Boston.

Daron’s widow, Vera Temkina-Daron, who lives in Boston, clearly remembers October 4, 1957, the day the Sputnik was launched, because her life was never the same after that day, she told The Times of Israel via telephone.

Before the launch, the Daron family lived in a communal flat. Daron had designed the engine that made space flight possible while living in a small room with his wife, 5-year-old daughter and mother, and sharing the kitchen and toilet with two other families.

“How did we manage?” Temkina-Daron muses. “Somehow we all got along — with each other and with our neighbors.”
Arabic inscription found under Tower of David rewrites ancient citadel’s past
History is being rewritten at Jerusalem’s Tower of David Museum. The recent discovery of an inscription dated to the 13th century CE has wound the clock forward for the construction of at least one portion of the Old City citadel’s outer walls.

Standing in the shadow of the looming Crusader fortress near the Jaffa Gate on a sunny November day, excavation director Amit Re’em described to The Times of Israel the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to delve into the mysteries buried in and under the fortress.

As part of the massive physical reboot, the entrance of the museum is moving from its traditional spot to a new location outside the citadel that is closer to the Old City walls. Re’em, the Israel Antiquities Authority’s Jerusalem district head, watched as workers took high-tech laser measurements to remove an Ottoman-era cannon platform that was constructed on top of a filled-in Crusader-era moat. “It’s like a spaceship,” he joked.

This unusual nexus of when history meets futuristic gadgets is exactly what had brought us there that day.

With the fortress’s iconic round tower jutting into the sky behind us, Re’em recounted a thrilling discovery of a dated inscription located in secondary use, meaning it had been recycled from some earlier use, in the foundations of an outer western wall.
How Gal Gadot Is Changing the Image of the Jewish Woman
What Gadot — or at least the image of Gadot — is accomplishing, however, is something quite new: she is remaking the image of the Jewish woman via Israeli means. That is to say, the image is finally being remade by Jews. While it still has remnants of the old stereotypes, especially of the exotic Oriental, it nonetheless is taking place almost entirely on Gadot’s own terms. That is, on Jewish terms, and this is something that, interestingly, the non-Jewish world appears finally ready to accept.

One can see this in the very fact of Gadot’s casting as Wonder Woman. While comic book films are, of course, not profound art, they do speak to the collective unconscious of a particular culture. Wonder Woman has for decades been a feminist icon around the world; an embodiment of the ideas of female strength, intelligence, beauty and power.

And the film itself was also groundbreaking, not only because it was the first female-led superhero blockbuster. More important was the uniqueness of the story it told — most superhero “origin stories” are about the coming of age of a young boy, a classic universal archetype. Wonder Woman was about the coming of age of a young girl, introducing a new universal archetype into mainstream pop cinema. That the non-Jewish world has proven itself willing to not only accept a Jewish actress in such a role, but to embrace it enthusiastically, is in historical context fairly remarkable.

It is true that, in some ways, Gadot had to be Israeli to accomplish this. Israel’s relatively-unusual policy of drafting women into the army has long created an underground fetish for such things as “the girls of the IDF” — that is, powerful and forceful women who can hold their own among men — and it was likely that putting a non-Israeli Jew in such a role would have been a step slightly too far for an ever-cautious Hollywood. But by giving the world a new image of how a Jewish woman can and ought to be seen, Gadot’s success may be a step toward changing this.

Jewish girls around the world can look at Wonder Woman and see themselves in a way they cannot with other female heroines, and perhaps they too will begin to insist on putting an end to pernicious stereotypes that have already persisted for far too long.
Years before first film, an Israeli artist turned Gal Gadot into Wonder Woman
Moses Pini Siluk is one of Israel’s most gifted photographers — but the trickiest to spot because he’s often in disguise. As Van Gogh. As Leonardo Da Vinci. Or as Theodore Herzl, who he recreated with prosthetics then took to Tel Aviv’s most popular gay club for photos.

“I took him [Herzl] to see how wild and free Israel is today,” explains Moses. “Herzl envisioned a free country, but did he ever imagine it as the liberal epicenter of the Middle East?”

During Israel’s strict lockdown Moses was more adventurous than most and while other citizens stayed at home, he took “Shtisel” stars Dov Glickman and Sasson Gabai to the beach in Tel Aviv. The socially- distanced sunset shot was used as the cover for Life magazine in September, but there is more to Moses than visual risk-taking. He can also manifest the future, as Gal Gadot can confirm.

It is hard to think of Israel’s most famous export than anything other than Princess Diana of Themyscira, aka Wonder Woman. And with the long-awaited sequel “Wonder Woman 1984” due to be released on December 16 at UK cinemas for one month, we are primed to reacquaint ourselves with the Amazonian warrior. But long before she put on her clingy gladiatorial armor and picked up a sword for Warner Bros, Moses had already predicted her superhero future.

“I presented Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman in a shoot for Sheva Leylot [Seven Nights] magazine seven years before she was considered for the role,” says the lens maestro.

“Back then she was a rising star in Israel with a dream and fierce determination. She was flying around the world working and taking care of her family, and to me that triggered the idea of superhero. And she was more than happy to pose for the portrait. Neither of us realized we were capturing what lay ahead,” he says.

The Esthers: Top 10 Jewish Films of 2020
The Esthers return with 2020 vision along with the eternal question: What is a Jewish movie? (As I’ve said before, a Jewish movie is a movie that strikes me as being of at least potential interest to the Tablet readership.) We might also ask, what is a movie? This year you have to take them where you find them—online, on disc, and on demand.

1. Uncovering ‘The Naked City’

Minute for minute, ace programmer Bruce Goldstein’s short account of the making of—and more to the point the locations used in—Jules Dassin’s 1948 policier was the most purely enjoyable movie of the year. Dassin was a native New York and The Naked City, shot all around town during the sweltering summer of 1947 (as Uncovering was during the COVID-19 summer of 2020) is, per Goldstein’s suggestively slurred adjective, the “most New York-ish movie ever made.” Not only Dassin but the producer, former Broadway columnist Mark Hellinger, and co-screenwriter Albert Maltz, were New York Jews. The movie’s title came from the book by the Galitzianer tabloid photographer Weegee and the on-set shutterbug was another, younger New York Jew, Stanley Kubrick. The Naked City included a considerable amount of Lower East Side local color as does Goldstein’s distillation. Indeed, he succeeds in magnifying Celia Adler’s cameo role, channeling Molly Picon as the sprightly proprietress of a candy store on the corner of Rivington and Norfolk, into a featured role—her biggest screen part since she starred in the 1937 Yiddish weepie Vu Iz Mayn Kind. Goldstein’s movie inspired me to take another look at Dassin’s and, forgive me for saying, Dassin’s bang-bang closer, a chase across the Williamsburg Bridge aside, I like Goldstein’s movie a lot more. You can find it on the Criterion Channel.

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